If Zach Trumble didn’t celebrate that touchdown, we would have assumed there was something wrong with him.
Instead, one of the biggest touchdowns scored by the Montana Tech Orediggers in recent years will serve as an example that college football has a problem. (Click here for the podcast version of this column.)
Sometimes, it lacks common sense, and the fun police seem to be trying to ruin our Saturdays.
Montana Tech beat archrival Carroll College 26-10 on a blistering Bob Green Field Sept. 3 in Butte. The play of the game came courtesy Trumble and running back Kaleb Winterburn.
Trumble is a junior defensive lineman from Valleyford, Washington, and Winterburn is a junior running back from Helena.
Since Winterburn played for Helena High, you better believe the score against his hometown school will be one he talks about for the rest of his life.
After all, how often do you see a defensive lineman catch a touchdown pass from a running back?
Oh yeah, and the play pretty much clinched a win in one of the best rivalries in the NAIA.
The Orediggers were leading the Saints 19-10 early in the fourth quarter when Carroll forced a Tech fourth and 1 at the Carroll 31-yard line.
Tech went with its jumbo package, which included defensive linemen like Trumble playing offense, presumably to block. Winterburn lined up as the lone back in the “Wildcat” formation.
Everyone in the stadium assumed the Winterburn was going to run straight forward, and he took the snap and appeared to be doing just that.
All 11 Carroll defenders went after Winterburn, and Trumble blocked down for a second before slipping past all the defenders. Winterburn stopped running and flipped a pass to Trumble. It seemed like forever as the 5,000 or so fans watched the ball float into Trumble’s wide-open arms.
It was the easiest touchdown you will ever see. It was also a touchdown that told the Saints to march on home, and Carroll fans started heading for the exits.
The Oredigger fans were happy as could be. So were the Orediggers.
According to the rules of college football, they were too happy because Trumble drew a flag for “excessive celebration,” costing the Orediggers 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff.
When Matt Stepan, who is now Montana Tech’s director of athletics, played defensive end for the Orediggers, he scored one career touchdown. As he headed toward the end zone, he planned to spike the ball — penalty be damned.
Stepan, though, had the ball slip out of his hands before he could spike it, saving Tech from a penalty.
Trumble did not spike the ball, though he could have since he did not have butter fingers as he put six on the scoreboard. He did not do an end zone dance or high step his way across the goal line. He did not taunt the Saints in any way.
He did not talk trash like nearly ever receiver and every cornerback do on nearly every play of nearly every college football game.
No, Trumble’s crime was being as happy as you would expect of any defensive lineman who scored on a touchdown pass.
“I got a little over-zealous and will be running for it on Tuesday,” Trumble told Bruce Sayler of Butte Sports. “I won’t do it again.”
Lesson learned. Don’t be so damn happy.
Trumble probably won’t do it again because a touchdown reception for a defensive lineman is usually a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing. If he is lucky.
If he does score again, though, he should spike the ball and do a little dance.
Having fun should not be a crime in college football. Or pro football. Or flag football.
The reason athletes play football in the first place is just that. To have fun.
Rules makers of college football, however, would rather have football be more like golf.
Old school golf, too. From back when having a personality was frowned upon.
When Rocky Mountain College came to town and beat the Orediggers two weeks later, the Battlin’ Bears were called for “excessive celebration” after two touchdowns.
Neither was the result of a spike or end zone dance.
The worst celebration call of all time came when Bob Green’s Orediggers played a thriller against Tommy Lee’s Montana Western Bulldogs in Dillon nearly 20 years ago.
Western scored on an 80-yard hook-and-ladder play just before time ran out. The TD tied the game, sending it to overtime.
The Bulldogs and their fans went crazy, as they should have. It was pandemonium on the Cow Pasture that is Vigilante Field.
The officials threw flags because the Bulldogs on the sideline celebrated with more than a golf clap for the highly-improbably score.
The Bulldogs were penalized 15 yards, and common sense took another blow to the head.
On the flip side, volleyball players are allowed to have all kinds of fun. That is probably why the sport has been exploding in popularity in recent years.
Even the losing team gets to have fun in volleyball.
If a college volleyball team gets beat 25-10, 25-10, 25-10 in a match, the team still had 30 choreographed celebrations along the way.
Every time the ball hits the court, one team celebrates like an NFL defense after a fumble recovery or a baseball team after a walk-off home run.
It is the same way in high school volleyball. And people wonder why volleyball has passed up basketball in popularity.
It is because the girls are having fun.
The NFL dropped the “No Fun League” garbage a few years ago and decided to stop policing enjoyment. Now the players and fans have more fun.
College football, though, still wants robots. So does high school football, where the eye black of players is regulated.
Can you imagine if volleyball referees were so uptight, taking the fun away from the girls and women, while the boys and men were allowed to have all the fun they wanted on the football field?
Can you imagine all the lawyers that would bring out?
No matter what Cyndi Lauper says, boys and men want to have some fun, too, and they should be allowed to do it on the football field.
Especially when a defensive lineman scores a touchdown.
— Bill Foley, who celebrates like Rod Tidwell when he watches his team score a touchdown, can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.